I freaked out. Not a normal, run of the mill, ‘I’m so busy in life’ freak out. No, it was a full blown psychic shit fest. It happened again recently. It might be the idea that I’m getting older and can never go back that’s haunting me. Or rather the realization that things aren’t what I thought I had been promised. Maybe I should rewind a little bit.
Me: I grew up in a solid nuclear family. Me + 3 other siblings + mom + dad. We went to church each Sunday and afterwards I would play around with legos in my room or join my dad in watching NASCAR while mom made a delightful Sunday dinner. I was entirely doted on by my mother and my father always made time for me. Living in such conditions I thought it was a ‘given’ that by the time I was my dad’s age I’d have a wife and kids and be on my merry way in my own house. I just knew a relationship was something that would be granted, or I’d stumble upon it and everything would work out somehow.
College: I’m dating the same girl for 4 years. I’m not in love, but I’ve settled into the routine of things. To put it nicely, we tolerated each other. “This is what people who are in love with each other feel” I’d tell myself. Love is a dull malaise for the other person but generally an acceptance of all the shitty things about them to the point that you can stomach them for days at a time. Love and a relationship is about how much punishment you can handle from someone else in your life and still smile at them convincingly. I took a lot of punishment until one day it was over. I wish I could say that I woke up and cut it off, but I didn’t. I was 25, a college graduate, working full time, and moving back into my parents house in the middle of nowhere. In the months that followed I did the best I could to keep myself busy and not think about what was going on. I had panic attacks that felt like I was having a heart attack at the most random of moments. I got them in the middle of meetings at work, hanging out with my friends, and in the shower. To put it mildly, it sucked a lot.
Somehow I didn’t get fired, started going to the gym, and moved out of my parents house. I stopped having the panic attacks as frequently and learned what to do for myself to prevent them and what to do when I got one. I kept doing improv and got to have some exciting opportunities with that. I partied. I dated. I made some new friends and reconnected with old ones. All the while I still had this thing brewing in the back of my head that said “Why haven’t you gotten it together yet? You’re a failure. You’re going to die and be a failure and that’s it. People don’t like you and think you’re an asshole. Things are against you because you deserve it.” It stuck with me like a scab.
I turned 27 and a couple days later I cried all day. I thought about what I was going to do about that inner voice. My voice. I decided that I should make myself some maxims to try and live by. I made the picture you see above. It’s hanging up on my bathroom mirror to remind me about the hard truths that I need to keep. I still read it most days. It reminds me that I don’t have a lot of time here. That what I thought I would just ‘get’ I might never have. It reminds me that I can’t be afraid of those things and that I need to take care of me before looking to take care of anyone else. It also lets me know that things that work for anyone else might not work for me. My path through life won’t look like anyone else’s path, because we are all unique.
I read it and it hurts less and less each day. It’s starting to feel like body armor more than scabs.
Today: Each year it seems like it’s harder to address the fact that I’m failing myself. This year was no exception. Almost like clockwork I had a psychic crisis a couple weeks after my birthday. I’m angry at myself. For a lot of things, but mostly for not turning into what I thought I was going to be. It’s kinda crazy actually, because compared to some people I’m actually quite accomplished, but it isn’t enough for me.
I want a long term, stable, functional, relationship. I want the intimacy of it and the trust and reliability that comes from that sort of bond you make with someone. It kills me that I can’t seem to get this one thing right, which makes it hurt even more when I see all my friends getting married or having kids and I’m stuck talking to my cat and spooning a pillow at night. The worst part about it isn’t the feelings of inadequacy or regret. It’s how pissed I am at myself for it. I’m mad that I can’t get it right and that I haven’t been able to “trouble-shoot” what’s going on enough to find the issue and fix it. It’s simple enough that a ton of idiots I know are getting it right and I can’t.
And that’s the thing that’s been eating me alive. Me. I’m mad at me for things that I can’t get right. I’m pissed that I’m 250 lbs and 28 and single. It doesn’t matter that I can kill a crowd the lab rats shows 1000 times and put on Comedy Death Match every month and be respected at work and have great friends all I want, but until I can find peace with me I’m not going to be enjoying any of it.
So I’m working on it. I’m being more forgiving to me. I’m reading self-help books to find some self-love. I’m reaching out to people that I respect and talking with them about how to love me more. How to forgive me more. I’m being less critical of myself, and others. I’m looking at things that I would have considered sub-par in my life and deciding that I’ve done my best in that moment and there’s nothing further to be done.
It’s nice to not be so hard on yourself every once in a while. It feels good.